Posted in May 2013

Owls in Devon

This is an exceprt from ‘Life in a Devon Village’ by Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter. He served in the trenches in World War I, where he suffered shell shock, so he spent some years in a smal Devon vilage near Ilfracombe recovering and writing. “Outside in the night, a thoaty, bubbling cry … Continue reading


Trees Died for This

I have been trying to read David McKie’s book ‘Bright Particular Stars – A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics’, but I have to get rid of it as it’s just making me angry. It looks great – a big colourful hardback, praised by the eseteemed TLS, The Daily Telegraph and others, but it really is … Continue reading


I am currently working my way though a great book by Bella Bathurst, ‘The Wreckers’ about the practice or myths of people around the coast of Britain luring ships to their deaths, in order to plunder them. It is an intriguing notion because this practice, like piracy and highway robbery, was a capital crime, but … Continue reading

Older Than Dirt

I heard this song a few days ago on Jarvis Cocker’s radio show – he has to learn it for a performance later in the year which sounds intriguing. But this version is extraordinary. I’m still trying to understand it, which is no bad thing. Here’s Lal & Mike Waterson with ‘The Scarecrow’: The Waterson … Continue reading

Fish Royal

It is a strange notion that for many centuries, the rulers of Britain claimed ownership and disposal of any Cetaceans, ie whales, dolphins etc, that were washed ashore on these islands. They were thus treated as wrecks, rather than animals, which seems strange. To us, there is a huge gulf between trainers washed up on … Continue reading

Spavens visits New York

This is from the Narrative of William Spavens, dated April 1757: “New York is an exceedingly fine city, advantageously seated on a point between the north and west rivers, which join at the south east end of the town, and fall into the sea at sandy hook. It is the mart of commerce for the … Continue reading

Navy in Disguise

This is from the Narrative of William Spavens, 1757: “After some time spent there [New York] we returned to Carlisle Bay, where our Captain devised means to disguise the ship, in order to deceive the privateers, as many of them had got to know her; and they being mostly Bermudian-built vessels, properly constructed for running, … Continue reading

Storm at Sea

This is from the Narrative of William Spavens “In our passage to Porto-Bello, we were alarmed with the appearance of a water-spout at a little distance on our weather-bow; it seemed to approach us very fast, and we were preparing our guns to fire at it, but it began to weaken, and quickly dispersed, letting … Continue reading

Noise for Safety

This is from the Narrative of William Spavens Sailing from Port Royal on the 20th of June, 1758, we anchored at Bluefields the day following, where we watered, and were joined by the trade from Peak Bay, Savannah, La Mar, &c. Leaving Bluefields with about 300 sailing in company, great and small (some of which … Continue reading